Experienced feature film heads of department tend to be discreet about the productions they have worked on prior to their world premieres out of respect for the directors, not to mention the NDAs.
The Revenant and Dune: Part One costume designer Jacqueline West could not resist giving a shout-out to Martin Scorsese’s upcoming feature Killers of the Flower Moon, however, at the end of a masterclass for Qatar’s Doha Film Institute on Tuesday.
Moderator Richard Peña, the Columbia University professor of film studies, was about to move on to taking questions from the floor when West interjected, requesting one last word on her career trajectory.
“After Dune: Part One, I had the most incredible experience of my film career. I went to work with Martin Scorsese. I can’t talk about that film yet because nothing has been released but I just have to say it’s the combination of someone I always wanted to work with and my absolute dream project. It’s called Killers of the Flower Moon and it was brilliantly done not just on my part but by everybody.”
Quizzed by Deadline afterward about what compelled her to make the shout-out, West said: “My husband said after I worked with Scorsese, ‘Okay, now you can quit. That’s the pinnacle.”
“It follows the book, and the book was totally captivating. The native cast was incredible and the acting, Lily Gladstone is incredible. The images were thrilling. It looks amazing. I watched it all being shot but I haven’t seen any of it,” she said.
West revealed that the film’s star Leonardo DiCaprio had seen it, however, and told her it was a masterpiece.
“I was talking to Leo about it. We had lunch before I came here. He said, ‘Jackie, I think we worked on a masterpiece’. I thought for Leo to say that, was something. He doesn’t say that lightly. He has been in the business since he was a little boy,” said West, who has been close to DiCaprio ever since they worked together in the sub-zero temperatures of The Revenant.
West is one of the most respected costume designers in the business. Alongside scoring Oscar nominations for Philip Kaufman Quills, David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Revenant and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One, her credits include Stephen Norrington’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Ben Affleck’s Argo, and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups.
Her comments will further stoke anticipation around Scorsese’s $200 million, Apple-backed adaptation of David Grann’s bestselling book depicting the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma.
Expectations are high that the film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but West said she did not know whether “Marty had released the film to the festival.”
West during the masterclass also talked about Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, which is now in post-production.
She revealed she had initially turned Villeneuve down when he first contacted her agent for Dune: Part One, on the back of her work on The Revenant.
“I said, ‘I don’t do sci-fi. It’s not my thing.’ I said no. He hired someone else, and I guess he wasn’t happy because he called my agent a second time and said, ‘Can I just talk to her.’ Mary Parent, who produced The Revenant and was producing Dune, got me in her office and put me on FaceTime with him on a big screen,” recounted West.
“He was so compelling. He said, ‘I want you because I do not want it to look like sci-fi. I want it to be classical. I don’t want it to look like a video game.’ ”
West revealed she felt she had a personal connection with the Dune novels linked to the fact she lived on a houseboat with her first husband in Sausalito harbor in Northern California, close to the houseboat of English writer and philosopher Alan Watts, where Dune creator Frank Herbert would sometimes go to write.
“I’m showing my age,” she said. “Our houseboat was about 30 feet away from Alan Watts’ boat. He would give all-weekend psychedelic parties… it was quite a scene back then in the Bay Area.”
West said Dune: Part Two was a lot more labor intensive than Dune: Part One.
“We made a lot of costumes,” she said.
“In Part Two, you really dive into the different worlds of Dune. We see what the emperor’s world looks like. We go to his planet. We spend a lot of time on Giedi Prime, the Harkonnen planet. We spend a lot of time in Stellan Skarsgård’s [Vladimir Harkonnen] world. Feyd-Rautha [Harkonnen] also comes into this one, brilliantly played by Austin Butler, Elvis. He is pretty fabulous in it,” she said
“All the worlds get expanded. It was about creating three separate, different-looking worlds and also revisiting the Bene Gesserits, the age-old ones with these costumes that almost look like Egyptian mummies. I think it’s visually stunning, the sets, the cinematography and the concepts.”
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